[Milton-L] Beauty dissertation (was "no subject?)

Salwa Khoddam skhoddam at cox.net
Thu Jan 6 13:05:15 EST 2011

    Carol wrote: " I'm not so sure that the dichotomy in Milton's mind is beauty vs. ugliness: I think it's more to do with proportion, with balance, with the "via media" vs. excess."
    But isn't "proportion" and "balance" synonymous with "beauty" in its total concept, including physical beauty as well  as the "via media"? It's all of a piece.  For Milton, as for Augustine, the "via media" of Aristotle is translated as resulting from the  knowledge of God.  In fact "the aim of education is to know God aright and out of this knowledge to love him, to imitate him, to be like him" ( Milton "On Education")?  I think at one point when expounding Milton's aesthetics, and Professor Skulsky's "hints" are extremely interesting and significant, one has to include the term "Augustinian" (excess as leading to sin, which Carol mentions) and "neo-Platonic." 
    Tony Demarest wrote:  "But there is more than the physical idea of beauty at work here- as if there were a beauty behind the apparent beauty.  Is it appropriate to speculate about Milton's aesthetic, and fix its path- phrases such as "Archangel ruined" surely qualify as beauty in image and sound. What if PL is, on one level, an attempt to create and destroy the idea of beauty- as only man can-?"
I agree with these statements.  All the universe for Puritans is filled with beauty, some hidden in the physical world.  Ryken (see below) mentions the puritan Samuel Clarke,  as writing in The Saint's Nosegay,"grace is hid in nature . . . as sweet-water in rose leaves" (4).  Perhaps PL is an attempt to create and destroy the idea of godless or grace-less beauty, detached from its original author either by a demonic angel or man.
 By the way, another excellent book on the Puritans is  Worldy Saints:  The Puritans As They Really Were by Leland Ryken, Zondervan,1986, which debunks prevalent myths about the Puritans.  There's a little about the Puritans and the arts (music), but not much about the concept of beauty.
What an interesting thread!
Salwa Khoddam, Ph.D.
Professor of English, Emerita
Oklahoma City University
2501 N. Blackwelder
OKC, OK  73106
Phone:  405-208-5127
Email:  skhoddam at cox.net
  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Carol Barton 
  To: John Milton Discussion List 
  Sent: Thursday, January 06, 2011 8:52 AM
  Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Beauty dissertation (was "no subject?)

  Jeffery (and Salwa), I'm not so sure that the dichotomy in Milton's mind is beauty vs. ugliness: I think it's more to do with proportion, with balance, with the "via media" vs. excess (as Salwa's comment suggests). The garden grows *too* abundantly; Adam's love for Eve is *too* great to allow him to worship and love God the way he should; Eve's appetite for wisdom is overreaching, instead of "lowly wise." Even their respective proposals for penance (abstinence, suicide, taking on the entire burden of sin oneself) are "too much of a much." There is the sense of excess that permeates the Garden of Acrasia in the _Faerie Queene_ as well--the failure of Temperance--suggestive, I think, of temptation so overwhelming that it obscures right reason.

  By the way--apologies for the posting of a message intended to be private to the list.

  Best to all,

  Carol Barton


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